Gardening with QT columnist Chelsea Van Rijn.
Gardening with QT columnist Chelsea Van Rijn. Sarah Harvey

Trace elements a basic need

RIGHT TREATMENT: Give your plants the right TLC this weekend as you attempt to stay warm.
RIGHT TREATMENT: Give your plants the right TLC this weekend as you attempt to stay warm. CONTRIBUTED

WITH all the rain around many gardeners are finding their plants just seem to be lacking something. It seems all the rain has washed all the good stuff away.

It seems lately everyone has been fertilising, but not seeing the results they want. Recently I've been asked by many customers, "What can I do - I've given my plants all the TLC they can handle, I've fertilised, watered well, even checked the pH level and it's perfect. What could possibly be wrong with my plants?"

Trace elements are the key.

Most of us are aware that plants require mineral nutrients for their growth and development. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the macro elements, are the names that usually appear on fertiliser packages, whether you use organic or chemical fertilisers. It is sometimes assumed that they are the "important" nutrients. These macro elements are just consumed by the plants in large quantities. Trace elements, micro nutrients can often be forgotten about as they are required in minuscule quantities.

When it comes to macro elements being the most important nutrients, nothing could be further than the truth. Trace elements like manganese, iron, zinc, and copper, are every bit as vital to the plants' metabolism as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. They have essential functions in such processes as respiration and photosynthesis, and so a deficiency in even one element will adversely affect the healthy growth of the plant. Strangely enough some trace elements when present in excessive concentrations are actually poisonous for plants.

Some common gardening practices (such as liming acid soils) can also contribute to widespread occurrence of micronutrient deficiencies in plants by decreasing the availability of the micronutrients present in the soil. Also, extensive use of glyphosate (most common weed killer) is increasingly suspected to impair micronutrient uptake by plants, especially with regard to manganese, iron and zinc.

Without a leaf or soil analysis, though, most of us are unable to pinpoint exactly what trace element is needed or not needed. The best product to use to help correct your soil and enable your plants to grow healthy is a general-purpose broad-spectrum trace element mix. Most trace element mixes help with deficiencies without causing excesses.

Trace element mixes are usually applied as a foliar spray as the absorption, movement and utilisation by the plant of nutrients is quite high using this method, but some can be applied as a soil drench. Not all trace element mixes are the same. Some brands contain more trace elements than others or a completely different set of trace elements. Some even contain macro elements.

Which one to choose then? I use Plant of Health's Bio Trace. It has a blend of the key micronutrients (eg. iron, cobalt and manganese) supported by macro elements. It is also contains fulvic acid to further enhance growth and health.

I find not every plant needs Bio Trace, but if they do they only need an application once or twice a year.

Try to stay warm this weekend by getting out and giving your plants the right TLC with a good quality trace element mix.



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